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Crystal-Balling the Customer Experience

By Tim Bailey

"The best way to predict the future is to create it," according to author Peter Drucker. Creating a successful future is surely the goal of every business, but navigating toward success has many unique considerations today. The digital revolution has created a new ecosystem for businesses and anticipating what lies ahead can be daunting. When it comes to delivering an exceptional customer experience in home building, here are just a few things to expect.   

Transparency: The Picture Gets Clearer
Home builders will continue to operate in this ever-evolving "connection economy" and the power of connections will continue to grow. Every consumer has the ability to like, tweet, share, compare, rate and review each and every product and service experience. The leverage this provides to high-performing companies will grow even stronger. Conversely, the risk this poses to brands that perform poorly will become increasingly dangerous. Most home buyers are not expecting perfection and will become champions for companies they believe are genuine and caring. Those companies will reap benefits through traditional referrals, as well as shared positivity across the many online channels now utilized by home buyers.

Marketing: The Message Gets More Personal
The marketing practice of "broadcasting to the masses" will continue to be redefined by targeted and personal touches that provide value and relevance to the individual. The same mass of consumers that are liking, tweeting, sharing, comparing, rating and reviewing products and experiences are providing a storehouse of information and ethnographic data. Consumer data that was previously only available to the privileged few is now available to all. This will allow the intimacy of marketing to advance, as companies can pinpoint precise consumers and personally connect with custom marketing messages. Consumers will continue to align with companies that share similar values and will eagerly introduce their connections to those brands as well.
The mobile age is also creating a host of new opportunities for marketing. According to research by Mobile Marketing Association Asia, "There are 6.8 billion people on the planet. 5.1 billion of them own a cell phone, but only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush." A Wall Street Journal article from December 2013 reported that "over half of all the views of U.S. real estate occurred on a mobile device." The mobile world means that marketing must continue to address the "wherever" and "whenever" needs of consumers, as shoppers expect to be able to interact with brands seamlessly "anywhere" and "anytime."

Data: The Need Gets Bigger
The use of rich data will grow even more critical. Leading companies will further leverage customer feedback, ethnographic research, data from social media, and other sources to design and shape products, services and the customer experience. Consumers expect experiences with products and services to be more customized and personal. Companies will need to harness the exponential growth of information available across a multitude of channels to fully understand the uniqueness of target customers. Aggregation of information from many systems, including customer feedback, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and social media channels will provide opportunities to create more accurate and predictive customer models.

Relationships: The Bonds Gets Tighter
Quality products and quality service have become the expected norms with home buyers. This will make the focus on "quality relationships" critical. Customer service departments should look to serve as customer relationship centres and incorporate predictive service models-versus the reactive service practices often employed in home building. Relationships in home building also include employees, trades, and suppliers and engagement across all of these stakeholders will become even more important for success.

Technology: The Advancement Will Get Faster
The customer experience in home building is changing rapidly and this change will continue to accelerate. "92 percent of home buyers use the internet in their home search," according to 2013 National Association of Realtors research. Home buyers research and qualify builders for their shopping list long before any visit to a model home. Builders that provide easy mobile access, interactive video, online reviews and customer ratings are engaging more of today's home shoppers. Emerging technologies will create entirely new opportunities for engaging tomorrow's home buyers at an even more personal and customized level.

Vision of the Future
Creating a successful future in an era of accelerating change is no small feat but, fortunately, some key fundamentals remain. A strategic and well-communicated vision will remain the lifeblood of successful organizations and the DNA of top performers will continue to lie within passionate core values.

Tim Bailey is Division President of Avid Ratings Canada, a leading provider of customer loyalty research and consulting to the home building industry. Through the Avid system, industry-leading clients improve referrals, reduce warranty costs, and strengthen their brand. He can be reached at tim.bailey@avidratings.ca.



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